Sailthru issues a Personalization Index for online retailers

Among the hundred retailers, only two scored just over 70, out of a possible 100.

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Sailthru Index

If you’ve been wondering how different retailers rank in their personalization, there’s now an index for that.

Personalization provider Sailthru has released its first Retail Personalization Index, scoring customer experiences for 100 US and UK brands between April and August of this year.

A brand did not need to be a Sailthru customer to make the list, although 18 were. The hundred were chosen by their brand prominence, retailer type and “known leadership in customer experience innovation and personalization.” The Index also offers a feature where any brand can self-calculate a score by selecting some criteria, although the methodology is more limited than the scoring for the hundred.

Sailthru VP of Marketing Jason Grunberg told me via email that his company intends to release an index every year, updated to account for changes in personalization technologies like augmented reality and possibly expanded beyond 100.

One surprise, he said, was “how often retailers required customers to create a profile and set product and communication preferences in order for the experience to be personalized,” even though the brands have the ability to automatically build behavioral profiles based on what visitors did on their sites.

And, he said, those profiles were often used only to personalize emails via group segments, instead of tailoring all their encounters with the brand and personalizing them down to an individual.

Because of such self-limiting actions by brands, he said, the average score was only 42 out of 100.

Personalization as core

Overall, Grunberg said, native ecommerce brands are “more likely to personalize across channels and to make use of long-term customer data profiles to ensure continued relevancy,” as well as more likely to personalize based on customer life cycle stages.

He noted that Sephora and JustFab — the only brands to have scored past 70 — “have personalization as a core pillar of their engagement strategy, which is why both brands have been able to grow and evolve their approach over time.” Compared to personalization as an added feature in a given channel, he said, personalization as a strategy allows brands to plan new ways for engaging customers as the brands grow.

He also pointed to some leading examples of brand-specific personalization:

  • “How Sephora leverages data on skin tone and type, hair color, and eye color to recommend products”
  • “How Home Depot’s mobile app allows for wayfinding in specific store locations to get consumers to the products they need as quickly as possible”
  • “How JustFab dynamically orders the categories of products in their emails based on a specific buyer’s preferences for bags over shoes”

Experts, consumer survey

To determine scores, a Sailthru team of personalization experts created a list of criteria across site, email, mobile and other, such as whether the brand allowed customers to create a profile, offered a welcome email or personalized retargeting messages.

It also conducted a survey of over 13,000 consumers who had made a purchase in the last 12 months with one of the 100 brands chosen. The respondents were asked to rate their experience, how well the brand personalized the experience, if they would recommend the brand and how likely they were to make another purchase from that brand in the near future. The survey responses were used to help the experts assign weighted values.

Grunberg noted that Sailthru specializes in personalization down to an individual level instead of just for segments, as well as other kinds of targeted personalization like predicted next actions. But, he said, the Index accounts for different kinds of personalization beyond Sailthru’s approaches.

He acknowledged digital intelligence firm L2’s studies on personalization for a range of industries, including retail. Sailthru’s Index is “complementary,” Grunberg said, in that his company’s methodology is derived from a decade of working with retailers and it’s free, while L2’s is available only to members.

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About the author

Barry Levine
Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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